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FCC Should Prioritize Affordability and Digital Literacy with Emergency Broadband Funds

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January 29, 2021—FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel announced Thursday that she will convene a virtual roundtable discussion on February 12, 2021 to gather public input on how to structure the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program.

The $3.2 billion initiative, funded through Congressional appropriations in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, will enable eligible, low-income households to receive a discount on the cost of broadband service and certain connected devices, throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

A panel of policy experts convened for a Broadband Breakfast Live Online event on Wednesday agreed subsidies from the federal government need to be spent wisely in order to get the most effective possible outcome from the federal program.

“The FCC should better define its objectives and collect data to ensure it is getting the most bang for its buck,” said Sarah Oh, research fellow at the Technology Policy Institute, adding that the agency has the resources to create better plans for data collection and analysis in preparation for the program’s disbandment.

In an initiative spearheaded by Oh, the Technology Policy Institute recently filed comments to the FCC on ways the agency could maximize the effectiveness of the program, and further, how the agency can learn from the program to continue addressing the digital divide beyond the pandemic.

TPI finds that the FCC’s objectives should be a combination of getting people connected and keeping people connected. Oh said the agency should both target households at risk of disconnection and encourage households without broadband connections to subscribe, with the federal aid.

Executive Director of the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, Angela Siefer, urged the agency to prioritize affordability and digital literacy measures. “We can’t focus all our attention federally on the rural availability and miss out on the fact that there are 26 million households in the U.S. that don’t adopt broadband in urban areas,” she said.

The digital divide is “less about availability and more about affordability and digital literacy,” said Siefer.

See Broadband Breakfast Live Online on Wednesday, January 27, 2021 — The Adoption and Use of 5G Broadband

While Trina Coleman, board member at the U.S. Distance Learning Association, said the agency should use the funds to increase adoption initiatives, she recognized that adoption can be a tricky subject.

Coleman highlighted the fact that some may be weary to participate in the program, due to an overall distrust of the government. She added that older populations may be satisfied with functionalities offered by mobile phones, and may not want to adopt broadband.

The panelists agreed that broadband data remains largely unavailable and called for the agency to gather better data on where broadband exists and where it does not. Coleman highlighted that only 22 states contribute data on where broadband exists to the National Broadband Availability Map, leaving more than half of the United States with no data on it.

This event is part of a six-part event series, “A No-Nonsense Guide to 5G,” on Broadband Breakfast Live Online.

A No-Nonsense Guide to 5G’ sponsored by:

Events in A No-Nonsense Guide to 5G” include:

  • Wednesday, October 14, 2020, 12 Noon ET — “A No-Nonsense Guide to 5G: The Hype and the Reality of 5G
    • This opening panel will set the stage for Broadband Breakfast Live Online’s consideration of the policy, technology and practical questions around the 5G wireless standard. What is 5G, and why is there so much buzz about it? How much of an improvement is it over prior generations of wireless? In other words: What is real, and what is hype? How the issues of trusted partners, rights-of-way deployment, and spectrum policy interact? Where is 5G seeing early successes, and what are the stumbling blocks?”
  • Wednesday, October 28, 2020, 12 Noon ET — “A No-Nonsense Guide to 5G: National Security and Trusted Partners
    • This panel will consider the global landscape for the 5G equipment ecosystem. It will consider issues in core networks, radio access networks and in handset equipment. How has the global landscape changed? Will 5G benefit from – or suffer because of – a new Cold War with China? How are American companies reacting to federal government initiatives for trusted partners? Where can the U.S. turn for solutions and alternatives to Chinese manufacturers?
  • Wednesday, November 18, 2020, 12 Noon ET — “A No-Nonsense Guide to 5G: A Case Study of Transformative Apps in the Enterprise
    • 5G is seeing its first real successes in the enterprise marketplace. To glimpse the future more accurately, Broadband Breakfast Live Online will consider case studies of applications in enterprise environments. What technologies and processes bring 5G success to the business marketplace? What needs to happen to bring 5G successes to the consumer marketplace?
  • Wednesday, December 9, 2020, 12 Noon ET — “A No-Nonsense Guide to 5G: Wireless Infrastructure, Municipal Rights-of-Way and the 5G Rural Fund
    • To realize the promise of 5G, far more base stations — wireless infrastructure facilities — will be necessary. 5G facilities and towers may not be as big as in previous generations of wireless technology. Still, the need for far more facilities has already created tensions with municipalities over rights-of-way. How can these conflicts be minimized? What are smart cities already doing to expedite wireless infrastructure deployment? Can the process be improved?
  • Wednesday, January 27, 2021, 12 Noon ET — “A No-Nonsense Guide to 5G: The Adoption and Use of 5G Broadband
    • What are some of the likely drivers of 5G equipment and services? How have existing consumer use cases been received? Are there 5G use cases that could help close the digital divide by elevating broadband utilization among communities of color and low-income populations? What can we expect from 5G technology in 2021?
  • Wednesday, February 10, 2021, 12 Noon ET — “A No-Nonsense Guide to 5G: Spectrum Policies to Advance Better Broadband
    • More than simply the next generation of wireless technology, 5G deployments make use of radio frequencies from an extremely wide range. For example, some 5G deployment are using mid-band spectrum between 3.4 GigaHertz (GHz) and 6 GHz. But 5G networks also promise tap into spectrum between 24 GHz and 100 GHz. It deploys these millimeter bands using network slicing and other advanced wireless tools. What new spectrum policies are necessary for 5G to flourish?

As with all Broadband Breakfast Live Online events, the FREE webcasts will take place at 12 Noon ET on Wednesday.

SUBSCRIBE to the Broadband Breakfast YouTube channel. That way, you will be notified when events go live. Watch on YouTubeTwitter and Facebook

See a complete list of upcoming and past Broadband Breakfast Live Online events.

5G

CES 2023: Commissioner Starks Highlights Environmental Benefits of 5G Connectivity

Starks also said federal housing support should be linked to the Affordable Connectivity Program.

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Photo of FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks (left) and CTA’s J. David Grossman

LAS VEGAS, January 7, 2023 – Commissioner Geoffrey Starks of the Federal Communications Commission spoke at the Consumer Electronics Show Saturday, touting connectivity assistance for individuals who benefit from housing assistance as well as the potential environmental benefits of 5G.

The FCC-administered Affordable Connectivity Program subsidizes monthly internet bills and one-time devices purchases for low-income Americans. Although many groups are eligible – e.g., Medicaid and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program enrollees – Starks said his attention is primarily on those who rely on housing support.

“If you are having trouble putting food on your table, you should not have to worry about connectivity as well,” Starks said. “If we are helping you to get housed, we should be able to connect that house,” he added.

Environmental benefits of 5G

In addition to economic benefits, 5G-enabled technologies will offer many environmental benefits, Starks argued. He said the FCC should consider how to “ensure folks do more while using less,” particularly in the spheres of spectral and energy efficiency.

“This is going to take a whole-of-nation (approach),” Starks said. “When you talk to your local folks – mayors – state and other federal partners, making sure that they know smart cities (and) smart grid technology…making sure that we’re all unified on thinking about this is exactly where we need to go to in order to drive down the carbon emissions.”

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5G

CES 2023: 5G Will Drive Safer Transportation

More comprehensive data-sharing is made possible by the reduced latency of 5G, CES hears.

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Photo of Aruna Anand, Durga Malladi, and Derek Peterson (left to right)

LAS VEGAS, January 5, 2023 – Panelists at the Consumer Electronics Show 2023 on Thursday touted the potential for 5G to make transportation safer by enabling information sharing between vehicles and with infrastructure.

5G is expected to expand connectivity by attaching small cell connectivity equipment on various city infrastructure, including traffic lights and bus shelters. 

More comprehensive data-sharing is made possible by the reduced latency of 5G, said Aruna Anand, president and CEO of Continental Automotive Systems Inc., referring to connectivity communications times. Anand argued that making relevant information available to multiple vehicles is key to improving safety.

“We give more information about the surroundings of the vehicle to the car to enable [it] to make better decisions,” Anand said.

Durga Malladi, senior vice president and general manager for cellular modems and infrastructure at chip maker Qualcomm, described a 5G-enabled “true ubiquitous data space solution” in which vehicles and smart infrastructure – e.g., traffic lights and stop signs – communicate with one another.

Asked for predictions, Malladi forecasted an increased “blend” of communications and artificial intelligence technologies. Anand said 6G is expected to emerge by 2028 and make its way to vehicle technology by 2031.

Both realized and predicted innovations in 5G-enabled technologies have driven calls for expanded spectrum access, from private and public sectors alike. The Federal Communications Commission and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, the respective overseers of non-federally and federally-used spectrum, in August agreed to an updated memorandum of understanding on spectrum management

Although relatively new, this agreement has already been touted by officials.

The FCC, whose spectrum auction authority Congress extended in December, made several moves last year to expand spectrum access.

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5G

FCC Permit ‘Shot Clocks’ Provides ‘Predictability’ to Wireless Infrastructure Builds: T-Mobile

Shot clocks are important to industry players, argued T-Mobile’s Tim Halinski.

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Photo of Nancy Werner, partner at Bradley Werner, LLC.

WASHINGTON, November 8, 2022 – Panelists on a Federal Communications Bar Association web panel discussed Monday whether benefits of the Federal Communications Commission’s “shot clocks,” which limit how long states and local governments can review wireless infrastructure applications, outweigh the increased pressures they place on state and local governments.

A shot clock’s deadline puts pressure on city officials’ negotiations with providers over the terms of infrastructure projects, said Nancy Werner, partner at Bradley Werner, LLC, a telecommunications legal and consulting firm. They also “put a lot of pressure on local governments…to make sure (they) have a reason to deny” a provider’s application if an agreement cannot be readily reached, Werner added.

Tim Halinski, corporate counsel for T-Mobile, argued Monday that shot clocks are important to industry players, although he acknowledged the validity of Werner’s concerns. T-Mobile and other providers benefit from expeditious permitting processes, as they look to accelerate the build out of 5G wireless technology.

“There’s no one size fits all,” Halinski said, “But it’s at least the starting point and provides that predictability in deployment that we need.”

The comments come as the FCC fields comments on new standards that would streamline the division of costs between third party attachers and pole owners. Critics say the financial and time delay burden in getting access to these poles have slowed and will slow the expansion of broadband in the country.

In 2018, the FCC instituted shortened shot clocks for small wireless infrastructure projects: “60 days for review of an application for collocation…using a preexisting structure and 90 days for review of an application for attachment…using a new structure.” The commission said the new, limited timeframes would facilitate the deployment of wireless infrastructure.

The FCC’s revised shot clocks for small wireless deployments was but one portion of the agency’s so-called “Small Cell Order” of 2018, which aimed to promote the expansion of 5G. To accomplish this goal, however, the order sought to eliminate regulatory roadblocks by limiting state and local governments’ authorities over wireless infrastructure permitting and their own rights of way. This tactic drew criticisms from many experts and local officials.

Nonetheless, in August 2020, the United States Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals largely upheld the order in City of Portland v. United States.

“(The Ninth Circuit’s) decision is a massive victory for U.S. leadership in 5G, our nation’s economy and American consumers,” said then–FCC Chairman Ajit Pai shortly after the ruling. “The court rightly affirmed the FCC’s efforts to ensure that infrastructure deployment critical to 5G…is not impeded by exorbitant fees imposed by state and local governments.”

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